Monday, December 24, 2007
Or are things clearer at night?
Does sunlight illumine, or obfuscate?
Depends on whether you are looking for a quarter dropped in the grass or looking at stars.
Can you think more clearly when wide awake, or when half asleep?
Sometimes the staggering improbability of the further stretches of quantum physics has a bizarre ring of truth to it. Why should there not be an infinite number of parallel universes, where exists every possible consequence for every possible action, when there is obviously an infinite number of possibilities?
The disputed glass; half-empty or half-full?
It seems to hinge on whether the glass is the one dumped over on your laptop or the one offered to you in the middle of Death Valley.
Is reality pressing in closer when you are depressed, or when you are glad to be alive?
The ambiguity is sometimes disturbing. It seems as if life ought to be true or false, instead of. . . . .an essay question, in which we are graded for effort and creativity.
Sometimes the reasons we have for being discouraged stack up evenly with the reasons we have for being happy.
Hypothetically, should a starving, homeless child in Calcutta be further discouraged by the rain pouring from the sky or delighted that he is alive to experience it?
(I found a challenge to my "don't expect too much out of life" philosophy in a book about Buddha.
A woman sorrowing over the death of her son went to the Buddha to ask him to bring her son back to life.
He answered her request by instructing her to bring him mustard seeds.
Specifically, she was to go throughout the village and obtain mustard seeds from any household where grief and death had not visited.
After going throughout the whole village and finding not one home where death had not been before her, she realized what the Buddha was trying to tell her.
Death and sorrow are facts of life and the sooner she realized this, the sooner she would find inner peace, the Buddhist apologist concluded happily.
It is all a matter of perspective, and no one would have been more cognizant of this than Jesus, yet He sobbed bitterly at the tomb of Lazarus and raised him back to life. This is not to mention the closer parallel of the widow's son.)
Do we suffer sickness and pain and labor at the hands of a capricious Creator or do we churlishly discard each and every nanosecond of the day, looking forward to its end?
We see through a glass darkly and are left the choice, every single day, to make of our existence what we will, until the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl shattered.
And we are speechless with gratitude for the words of God,
"Let us create man in our own image."
Saturday, December 15, 2007
G. K. Chesterton, on his return to the Christian faith, after his long odyssey through a desolate philosophical wasteland.
Atheists present us with a paradox. The existence of a loving God with the misery that we all witness. And none of us can deny the occasional complaint, Why pain and Why me?
Chesterton, however, cheerfully turned the problem of pain back to the atheists of his day.
The atheists said "There's pain. Thus, there's no God."
Chesterton said "There's pleasure. Explain, please."
He meant reconcile unwarranted, unnecessary delight with random chance.
In a world that exploded into existence out of sheer dumb luck, a universe squeezed by staggering odds out of the passing eons of time, what right had pleasure to exist?
As far as I know, they have yet to answer. They're too busy being mad at God for not existing.
And they have raised the heights of morality higher than the monument in Babel ever towered.
What heroism, to be moral, when there is no obligation to be so.
How achingly beautiful, to find meaning when there was none created.
And how courageous, to face a world without a benevolent Equalizer.
If they could just sell this idea of responsible nihilism to the masses, not to mention the occasional Hitler.
Atheists and agnostics face a giant obstacle in human nature.
Evil embarrasses their grandiose humanism, over and over again. Every day in a thousand little deeds committed by each of the five billion of this earth's inhabitants their aims are frustrated. I suppose, however, that is the seduction. The goal of altruism is a pipe dream. And pride drives them on like a sharpened ox goad. They need no God or threat of reprisal to force their goodness. We hold to morals because we are afraid. They hold to morality simply because.
Pleasure, however, does pose a problem for materialistic atheism.
I sat in a parking lot waiting for Devan tonight.
NPR played on the radio. (If they only knew how discordant and disruptive their commentary is to their music) Robert Schumann, I think, was the composer. Simple, contemplative piano.
A cold rain gusted down over the shopping center.
I was looking out the windshield at the reflection of the street lights mirrored on the dimpled surface of the parking lot. A yellow street curb lay directly in front of me, and an impressionistic portrayal of the curb lay directly below that.
Without even trying, I felt vaguely surprised at such beauty. And for my eyes only, apparently. No one else was looking.
On the dashboard, I then saw the image of the tiny rivulets of water coursing down the windshield, reflected on the vinyl covered Styrofoam. I felt unworthy to look upon it.
On the pavement outside, I watched as each drop of rain pelted into the shallow peddles, and saw each individual drop explode into a perfect symmetrical vision, as it collided with the asphalt and shattered up to catch the light and refract God's seven perfect colors.
Why was I chosen to have the privilege of sitting in that resplendent rain-soaked parking lot, watching thousands of points of light dancing and twinkling before my eyes?
One drop was all I needed to see in order to justify my creation.
I assume since it was dark, no one saw me taking pictures with my phone of the puddles in the parking lot.
But I really don't care.
When I have the unmitigated gall to ask why me? in the future, I'll take out my cell phone, flip it open and shrug.
I have no idea.
Early on, his message about being the man that is hated by the far left, and the far right, was enough to make me roll my eyes. And the self-applied label "the conservative who isn't mad at anybody," was groan material.
He didn't help his case any by jumping in the Bush bash.
His comments that Bush's Iraq policy is "arrogant" and calling it a "bunker" approach is more of the same Bush bashing that puts me at odds with most Republicans these days. They, like the Democrats, were in full war cry at the outset of the Iraq war, citing WMDs, al-Queada connections, and general national security concerns. And now, like the Democrats, they are quick and comfortable to point out perceived mistakes in Bush's war policy. I suppose it would considered simplistic by some to point out that Bush's record for protecting our country is impeccable, and considered naive by still others to assume that he and his administration should be worthy of a little respect on that count.
But I guess that's not enough for Huck.
His credentials for snipping at the Bush administration's foreign policy reminds me vaguely of another Arkansas governor's resume, which consisted of calling out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the disposal of chicken manure in the Arkansas River.
In the words of Bush the Elder, ". . .his foreign policy experience is limited to dining at the International House of Pancakes."
Quit the Bush bashing, Huck. It is insulting to us, and it exposes your own lack of experience, not to mention intelligence.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
I sometimes suspect that my fascination with Job is owing to a childish melodramatic interest in tragedy, and any pontification offered on the subject, pedantic, and stemming from a perfunctory knowledge of anguish gleaned from a brief but stormy voyage on the sea of despair, circa 1995. It is also no doubt the brooding indulgence of an occasionally melancholic temperament. ( And I am fully aware that my being transfixed by the trial of Job is no different than a silly sentimental school-girl's obsession with the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.)
However, the previously mentioned voyage has marked me forever, for better or worse, and forgive me if I seem to have yet to gain my land legs. And if I am to offer anything of the slightest worth, even interest, on this blog, it had better be something that begs my interest, or you will have wasted just as much time reading it as I will have writing it.
Job appears to have been something of an anomaly, from my limited viewpoint. He was extremely wealthy and absolutely devoted to God. According to my knowledge of human nature, when things go well, our appreciation for God can be likened to our appreciation for an Internet connection. When it works well, you really don't think about it, but when you don't have it. . .
This is interesting also, when you consider that Satan insisted that Job served God for the favors. Was he exhibiting an astounding lack of knowledge of human nature, or was he ignoring it in the interest of an opportunity to inflict misery upon a human? Satan's role in this is obscured by the larger story, but it is somewhat mysterious, starting with his presence among the angels before God. What exactly was he doing there, and why was he allowed?
Perhaps the incongruity of an exchange between God and Satan is what has led some to believe that this "Satan"translated "Adversary" means just and only that and that Satan in this case is not the arch-enemy Lucifer whom God banished, but, in fact, God's prosecutor. The problems with that theory are many and significant, not the least of which is the fact that from this premise you must assume that in this particular case God plays prosecutor (intimating Job had committed an act worthy of prosecution and we are nowhere in the book led to believe that he had), defense attorney (at the end of Job God clearly states that Job had done no wrong throughout the whole ordeal, unlike his friends) and judge. ( God settles the wrong done to Job by his friends and rewards him for his consistent resistance to sin.)
The question remains however, why would God allow Satan in His presence? Perhaps we can simply compare the occasion to Satan's temptation of Christ and let it go at that.
One of the first discomforting things about this exchange is you'll notice God Himself first mentioned Job. Thus leading to the discussion as to Job's motives in eschewing evil. God, in His omniscience, obviously knew the course this discussion would take. Some have suggested it was the result of God's pride in Job, and I don't necessarily dispute that although I think it goes deeper than my dad is better than your dad. God saw that the ordeal would benefit Job, which is even more discomforting. If a man like Job, dedicated and blameless and as upright as he was, was in need of being driven closer to God by such horrible disaster, what awaits a lesser man like me around the next corner? Or does God reserve such bitter medicine only for those He trusts enough to take it and crushes a baby aspirin in a spoonful of grape jelly for the rest of us?
The book of Job and stories like it present a giant stumbling block for some. How could God so cruelly, and so unjustly punish one of His most well-behaved children? The question nagged at one Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin and his long-suffering tiger are laying awake at night, commiserating and pondering over the meaning of the death of a baby raccoon they had found and adopted. Calvin wonders why the little raccoon had to die, and what a rotten, miserable world fate had fashioned for us. The strip ends with Calvin and Hobbes both hiding under the bed and Calvin stating, "Either it's mean, or it's arbitrary, and either way I've got the heebie jeebies." You could take this as Watterson's denial of a loving God or the plaintive question posed by someone who is just trying to make sense of the world sans God.
More later . . .
who knows how much later
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
How does a Republican presidential candidate who lobbied on behalf of an abortion clinic garner the Oscar for pro-life candidates?
Fred Thompson's latest response to the accusation of abortion lobbying was finally direct, and numbing. (His earliest response to the charge was an ill-conceived attempt at Reaganesque chutzpah. Something to the effect that it was summer and the flies were out. The flies were buzzing around his head alright, but it was mostly because they thought he was dead.)
But after playing coy about it for three months, he finally blurted out his excuse.
That was business, and this is politics, and he doesn't mix the two.
I don't have to extrapolate anything from that admission. He essentially said that profiting from abortion has nothing to do with opposing it. And the truly stunning thing is that he doesn't appear to be the least conflicted about it.
Add to that a television interview in which he was either desperately groping for the tolerance angle or possibly his brain hit the mother of all skip channels.
He stated that he didn't think it was right to consider jailing young women for having abortions.
The host of the interview still has to be scratching his head over that one. Did I ask?
I can't help but sympathize a little with Paul Weyrich and his surprised anger over the NRLC endorsement.
However, Weyrich suggesting that Thompson paid the nation's largest pro-life organization may be a little hasty. And did Weyrich presume that his guy was going to land that endorsement? Mitt Romney was initially pro-life until deciding to run for governor of Massachusetts. He then felt that choice was prudent, until deciding to run for president. Now he's back to pro-life. I wouldn't suggest that the timing was suspicious, merely that I feel sorry for him. All that hand-wringing must be emotionally exhausting.
One thing I can't help but like about John McCain. One thing. He is occasionally the soul of levity and brevity. Upon hearing of Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Guliani, he managed, "Every once in a while, I am left speechless. This is one of those times."
It didn't really surprise me. The only time that Pat surprises me is when he does something normal. In a discussion with a black friend once, we were able to commiserate. "I got Jesse Jackson, and you got Pat Robertson." he said. Baggage neither one of us needed.
I guess I can only say one thing and I say it somewhat reluctantly.
Not much organization here, just a few thoughts.
Friday, November 02, 2007
We accept your condolences.
Four years ago, Kentucky took one small step forward out of the dark ages and elected Ernie Fletcher, a rising political star in the commonwealth.
It appeared to be part of a nationwide pattern, progressing toward a rational, business-friendly, consumer-friendly Republican paradise.
Once again, we seem to be part of a pattern, regressing toward big government and a tax ceiling higher than the starry host above.
The Democratic machine, after forty years in the governor's mansion, still had its claws dug into every other facet of our state's government, and refused to let go.
Their water boy, Greg Stumbo, the Democratic state AG, trumped up a host of discriminatory hiring charges against the Fletcher administration, and Fletcher spent almost the entirety of his term distracted by a created scandal. At the very worst, and with a liberal dose of fantasy added, Fletcher's hiring practices could be construed as unethical, but it is a painful stretch.
More realistically, it was a small act of retribution against forty years of constrictive Democratic cronyism. Additionally, it was a measure of expediency by Fletcher. He admittedly may have been trying to weed out Democrats in state offices to accelerate his agenda. To which I wished him the best.
This state is notorious for being unfriendly to big business and even more hostile toward the tax-payer. The overall tax rate in Lexington, the second largest city in the state, ranks third or fourth in the nation. From the top, not the bottom. The uncomfortable business environment has led to a mass exodus of the state's biggest business, horses, to states like Florida where they inexplicably believe that business is good for the economy.
The Democrats answer to this is that we must keep up with the times and our neighboring state of Indiana by voting in casinos.
Whether you eschew gambling or not, the support business systems brought in by casinos are somewhere between eighty and ninety percent organized crime.
Yeah, that's good for a party who is pledging to bring back ethics to Frankfort after that deviant Republican's merit hiring scandal.
I always feel a surge of hysteria rising to the surface when I hear Democrats talk about honesty.
Not to mention another big lie they sold when they brought in the powerball lottery.
They promised to shovel a big portion of the "stupid tax" (appropriately so called because the lottery is a tax for people who can't do math) into the education coffers. For the children, you know.
It may come as no surprise that they have not in fact, funded education with the stupid tax as they pledged to do, and would it have helped if they did? Why do we always assume that throwing money at kids will make little light bulbs come on in their eager little heads?
The polls show the Democratic challenger, Steve Beshear, with a fifteen to twenty-four point lead over the incumbent.
I am tempted to indulge in a little irrational exuberance (little Alan Greenspan lingo there) at the news of the statewide school poll. Schoolchildren have re-elected Fletcher by a margin of 54 to 46.
But there's a demographic caveat. Children obviously take their cue from parents, and parents will always prove to be a more conservative voting bloc than singles, college students, or, dare I say it, homosexuals. And that last voting bloc is nothing to sneeze at, with Lexington, once again a topper of dubious lists, the host to one the largest concentrated homosexual populations in the country.
The point is, voters don't care about anything important. They are fickle, astonishingly non-thinking, and apathetic.
Who care about the horses, bring on the casinos.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I'm painfully slow to recognize it in myself.
On a psychological level, it's maddening.
Everyone's job is, I suppose, what they make of it.
Sometimes I make mine out pretty hard.
It's pretty basic. Take out a truck full of packages and bring it back empty.
Some days it's a walk in the park and I walk out to my pickup at five-thirty.
Other days it's. . .
The problem is, on the latter days, I've found myself tense all day, waiting for the other jackboot to fall and club me on the head.
Part of it is successful mind manipulation on the part of the supervisors. They have succeeded in making you feel like you're getting off easy if you clock out under eleven hours.
So on a decent night, on the way home at six-thirty, I'm still waiting. . .
It came to me as I relaxed by letting the stinging wind blast through the cab of my truck.
The reason it was relaxing was because it stung just a little. It was uncomfortable.
I slung my arm out the window, and opened the back sliding glass.
I began to unwind.
. . . because I was whacking myself over the head with the other shoe, and it was a slipper!
Whether I've been conditioned or whether it's a curse I was born with is moot.
I seem to remember feeling somewhat guilty as a kid.
I remember guilt as a roaring lion preceding my salvation.
But now, it crops up here and there, like crabgrass.
My life has been remarkably easy thus far and fear is the devil I know.
I wait for God to introduce some crisis into my life to teach me patience, or trust.
What I have told myself for years is that nothing is as bad as the expectation of what might be.
So I expect the worse, assuming that since dread is the worst part of any calamity I've already gotten over the hump of any potential disaster just by worrying about it.
What was it John Wesley said about worry and cursing?
But this isn't so much sinful despair as it is preventative maintenance, y'see.
I've told others besides myself that no catastrophe can equal your imagination. I've made a good show of pointing this out to Devan and she is light years ahead of me in childlike faith.
My motto is, there's gotta be a more complicated way.
If you put me at point A and tell me to get to point B and there's a six-foot wide sidewalk in between, you'll never find it trod upon by me. I prefer the tangled brush on the right side or maybe the knee-deep mud on the left.
Because God wouldn't let you get by that easy.
Perfect love casts out fear.
Be ye perfect. Be, in the act of being. The verb is undeniably emphatic, undeniably present tense, no off-hand suggestion, but I tend to view commandments in the negative, focusing on what will happen if I fail to keep them.
This is otherwise known as not keeping your eye on the ball and its what I mean by fear; to serve God because you fear the consequences of the alternative. I take comfort in the fact that fear alone could not have carried me safe thus far, but the lingering shreds of the grace that taught my heart to fear are still fluttering in the wind of the grace that relieved my fears.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Well, my fellow Republicans, I am about to transgress Ronald Reagan's eleventh commandment.
On the Republican side you have what looks like a line forming at the water fountain.
Have you ever seen anyone looking presidential in line at the water fountain?
The top-tier candidates (new media obsession word) which now appear to consist of Guliani, Thompson, non-candidate Gingrich, and Romney are enough to make me consider not voting. I know I cannot conscientiously not vote, but, I'm also wondering how I can conscientiously vote, particularly if I'm faced with Guliani, Gingrich or Thompson.
RINO does not even begin to describe the New Yorker's New Yorker Guliani. If you are tempted to start viewing Guliani in the stage lights of electability, ask yourself how much better off we would be if we sold our soul to the devil to elect a Republican. I understand there is such a thing as throwing your vote away on an unelectable candidate, but you must have a rudimentary knowledge of New Yorkers' values. They have none. I admit I would be stunned if a pro-choice, pro-civil union, pro-gun-control (yes, I know he addressed the NRA, and I've never heard a Republican sound so much like a Democrat) candidate won the GOP nomination, but stranger things have happened. Northeastern Republicans are mystifying to anyone living below Pennsylvania. It's not unlike being a Unitarian and attending the Southern Baptist Church.
Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, carries some socially conservative credentials. He carries them everywhere he goes, like a driver's license. If he's pulled over by evangelicals, he's covered. This is what bothers me. I would prefer he carry them like a concealed weapon.
His affair is also problematic. Marvin Olasky of World Magazine recently wrote an article in which he discussed the findings of researchers who have found that candidates who struggle with honesty in their marriage tend to struggle with honesty in other areas as well.
What a shock. His point, though, was a good one. Can we trust the country to a man who was unable to keep the most basic vow to his wife?
The man is fiscally brilliant and articulates conservative economic policy like no other. So I think he should stick to his political action committees and leave leadership to leaders.
Now, ol' Fred.
I have a personal sticking point with Fred Thompson. I know we're not electing a pastor here, but a 65 year old man with a ten month old son and an eighteen year old wife just creeps me out.
Not to mention his eighteen year old wife (little exaggeration there) dresses like a seventeen dollar hooker.
James Dobson, not the Apostle Paul by any means, but a very good source of information if you happen to be a Christian and you happen to vote, rained all over Thompson's parade in an e-mail to friends. Thompson "has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent 'want to' " and furthermore, "can't speak his way out of a wet paper bag." He also pointed out that Thompson opposes a constitutional amendment to defend marriage and supports McCain-Feingold finance reform.
Mitt Romney. I am suspending judgement on Romney, but I'm definitely not excited about him.
If you don't mind me quoting Olasky again, Romney is "slick."
And his pro-life credentials are somewhat suspect as well. They look a lot like George Bush Sr.'s in 1988. Can a man change his mind? Absolutely. About whether murder is murder? Possibly. It just stinks when a Massachusetts governor suddenly changes his mind about abortion with the national scene looming in the distance.
The fact is, they all look mighty small standing in the shadow of the current president.
Monday, September 03, 2007
There was a recent book published about Mother Theresa entitled Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light that included some of her personal correspondence with friends and confessors that reveals a side of this servant of humanity that hostile non-Christians will wave around like a smoking gun.
Nominal positive thinking Zig Ziglar Christians will find it uncomfortable reading and likely move on to something else.
Mother Theresa was obviously Catholic.
I am obviously Protestant.
My belief that she made it to Heaven is not to say that doctrine is unimportant.
Doctrine is extremely important.
God is more merciful, however, than doctrine is important.
Mother Theresa, it seems, suffered a lack of good feeling.
I stated this in an intentionally trite manner.
For over forty-five years, from the early 1960's, until the day she died, she went through what St. John of the Cross termed "the dark night of the soul." That is to say, she suffered an absence of the felt presence of God.
(And read the letters before you say, "Sure, she didn't feel God's presence! She was Catholic!")
She suffered bitterly under a "dryness", a "darkness", a "torture."
"This smile," she wrote of her everlasting beaming craggy visage, "is a cloak that covers everything."
"Such deep longing for God- and. . .repulsed -empty -no faith -no love -no zeal."
Do we understand the desperation of the beggarly position God wishes us to come to?
It is truly a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Even for a Christian to fall into God's forge . . .
As C.S. Lewis said of Aslan in his mildly successful children's book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, "Safe?! Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe! But he's good."
Our spiritual life is typically cyclical. We loathe the valleys but recognize that a valley lies between mountains. And so we are comforted.
God, however, wants to really test us. And thus some find themselves following a valley (as following the road God would have us take) as it winds perpetually down between mountains rather than simply passing through the valley to ascend the next peak.
To be comforted at all in this life is to be the faint-hearted recipient of God's tender mercy. At times, we comfort ourselves with remembrance and reiteration of God's promises.
Still other times, fewer and farther between, are times of God's personal reassurance.
But these rapturous experiences are not what God wishes us to live for.
They are brief respites, points by which we erroneously measure our progress, when the real distance is gained when we are slogging along with no landmarks in sight.
I am caused to wonder whether comforting ourselves, that is, pushing the encroaching darkness back with a waving candle is not getting ahead of God.
Perhaps He wishes us to not grow accustomed to the darkness, but not fear it, trusting that He will lay no stone in our paths to stumble over.
I don't mean that we should ignore or take no comfort in the promises of God, I am saying that shouting them out in the darkness with a quavering voice, or worse still, mumbling them frantically to ourselves with our head stuck in the sand gives the lie to what we are saying.
God may let us take comfort or rest in nothing.
He may cause the blessing of family to be done away with. He may deny you friendship, and He may sequester you in an emotionless vacuum. He may cause the end-all, the hope of Heaven itself, to become clouded and nebulous in our minds. Everything is fair game, in His insane quest to gain our true trust.
In a dark room, on a moonless night, your pupils will eventually dilate enough, using what luminosity there is from the stars, or a distant streetlight, to gradually outline the bed, the chairs, the curtains.
But in a room with no windows, and no doors, your eyes will not assist you.
Do you suppose Thomas ever wished he had believed before he saw?
I am gradually learning not to take placebos. It's not easy. We are programmed to seek resolutions to our disillusionment; a weepy emotional conclusion to a dry spell, an epiphany, something to testify about on Wednesday night, "All week long I struggled, but I was having my devotions, and the Lord broke through. . . ."
I have reassured myself a thousand times that emotion is not important.
And each time I do, I feel better.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I am not overly interested in science. I am fascinated by nature, but in much the same way that I love music. I don't necessarily wish to know how it works, I just enjoy the end result.
Having the question put to me, however, a few retorts leap to my mind; Antonin Scalia's biting sarcasm in describing the cunning deceit the disciples of Christ employed in order to have themselves crucified upside down, boiled in oil, or exiled to Patmos (talk about selfish motivation); the simplistic yet persistent question of the origin of that first indefatigable molecule ( I have heard artful and exceeding scientific attempts to explain away the origin of species, but only disinterested conjecture on the origin of life); or my own conversion experience, which Dawkins lists as the least convincing proof offered by theists.
This, by the way, could fill a whole book by itself, probably not written by Dawkins.
If he insists that I be a skeptic such as he is, believing only what I can personally experience, in regarding my supernatural experience versus his entirely physically explainable life, then, having been overwhelmed with my "own reality" wouldn't it be irresponsible to accept his in lieu of mine?
Anyway, I find myself doubting whether he has considered the implications or full consequence of his conclusions.
For example, despite the accolades of courage with which atheists and evolutionists glad-hand each-other, (they don't need no crutches, an irony in itself, after painting such a pitiful picture of delusional Christians suffering under the crushing burden of God, it hardly then becomes courageous or altruistic to deny God, in fact, it's only the selfish thing to do) I am wondering whether Dawkins is honest enough to admit that his life has as much meaning or future as a pile of dung.
And now I am sounding like the cool rationalistic Dawkins who alternately refers to God as sex-obsessed, misogynistic and sadistic, harsh words indeed for someone whose only misdeed has been not to exist. I do understand that his epithets are directed more at me, as one who has created God, than at God Himself. Still, his vitriol retains a curious forcefulness, and at best seems several notches below level-headed.
I digress, however. Indeed, I excel at digressing.
The original course I set out on is that if Dawkins is as intellectually honest as he says he is, he will find absolutely no meaning in life, for it was never anticipated, produces no results, and has no end other than procreation, which [PG-13 warning] derives its only pleasure from its result; offspring.
It's either a mind-numbing chicken-egg conundrum or way over my head.
In other words, he will be the most shiftless, positively uninspired atheistic apologist on the face of this pointless, coincidental earth. He will, as a natural result, have no use, in fact, no tolerance for music, art, poetry or beauty of any kind, and if he does, he will be at a dissatisfying loss to explain why.
Furthermore, he will cease to be, will have never become, the God-debunking zealot that he is.
We would only know his opinions on the matter if we were able to observe his thoughts, as he never would have had the motivation, the eagerness, or the God-given hatred of God to write down his thoughts. Or, had he, simply as a means of monetary pursuit, if we are to find his crusader's motives suspect, this again would end in confusion, since the pursuit of wealth is only an offshoot of the pursuit of happiness, which is unavoidably an offshoot of the pursuit of meaning.
Maybe more later.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Wrestling with questions that refuse an answer. . . .
Just as I satisfy my quest to justify God and His ways and drift off to sleep with a smile on my face whispering, "Transcendence, higher ways. . .", another fork appears in the road ahead and I sit bolt upright with a worried look.
Transcendence is the catch-all only if you continually keep your eyes upon the transcendent One.
But as you gaze steadfastly upon Him, something will inevitably begin to nag at you, and the feeling creeps over you that comes upon you when you are driving and become transfixed by some distant curiosity, or a bit of scenery, a map.
Lost in the distance, something begins to nag at you,
the road, the road
And your head jerks back around, catching an imaginary obstacle in the corner of your traitorous eye, swerve, and hit the ditch, only to get out, and find there was nothing in the road after all.
I realize keeping your eyes on the road while driving is the responsible thing to do.
But spiritual responsibility has a way of becoming a spiritual liability.
In other words, probably you shouldn't be the one driving.
Your imagination tends to run away with you.
This path of faith can be a place
So barren of what I understand
Someone once had the unmitigated gall to ask Daniel Boone if he'd ever gotten lost.
"No." he replied, with an addendum, "I got confused once for about two weeks, but I never have been lost."
Is that an equivocation, bravado or a lie?
Or, the truth.
Seeing as how he was still around for someone to ask him if he'd ever been lost, it appears we have to take him at his word when he said he hadn't.
Many's a time I've been making my way out of the brush, fighting through to a clearing ahead, and savagely kicking the same boulder I've already passed three times.
Two or three years ago, (you see how these crisis have a way of escaping us, hanging from a cliff, praying Oh God help me, seeing a disembodied hand reach down and pull us back over the edge, Never mind, God, this disembodied hand just helped me.) I was headed to work on a Saturday. To further set the scenario, I think we can assume we were hard up for money, or I can guarantee I would've been at home in bed. Anyway, the truck dies.
I'm not a mechanic. Having said that, let me elaborate. I hate working on cars, and much the hatred is multiplied when I'm working on a car that died on my way to work on a Saturday to earn some already needed money.
As I blundered around town asking questions, I kept fighting the rising doubt, the endless parade of open-ended decimal points and dollar signs
To counter this, I clutched a rosary and feverishly muttered a Hail Mary.
That is to say, I may as well have been.
I repeatedly assured myself, all in the name of faith, that the dead truck was going to undergo some sort of miraculous resurrection, something on the order of Lazarus, or a reversal of the fig tree.
Essentially, I was quoting a mantra, vain repetition, I think it's called, and invoking a heady line of positive thinking.
The trouble with positive thinking is that one single question mark negates all the positive and puts you back at square one.
I believe the truck will be fixed so I won't have to spend a lot of money on it.
The truck is going to cost a lot of money to fix so I must be going to get a check in the mail.
If you're God and you are allowing your pupil to undergo a trust exam and he's speeding around town, frantically repeating "God will take care of this, He will take care of this." do you graduate your pupil?
You're not and I'm not. God, on the other hand, is, and He prompts "Yes, I will take care of this and you, more specifically, if this culminates in your truck being hauled off to the junk yard."
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Newt Gingrich is shrewd.
He is fiscally brilliant, and he articulates his policies well.
He is also politically sharp.
His recent comments regarding his fellow Republicans and Bush in particular are nothing if not sly.
His "trained seals" barb pointed at the Republican presidential candidates was a marvel of efficiency in the way of non-binding ridicule.
He counted on his remarks being taken somewhat out of context, and was able to calmly point out that he was not, in fact, technically referring to the candidates as trained seals, but was rather offering a commentary on the political process. Left explicitly unspoken but impressed upon the minds of his listeners is his contempt for candidates who would allow themselves to be treated like trained seals.
He has been ratcheting up the rhetoric on the war on terror, on Alberto Gonzales, on the political impotency of the Republican controlled White House, House, and Senate of 2001-2006, (neglecting to comment on his capitulation to Clinton in the budget battle showdown of the Clinton) in a largely successful, I think, attempt to jazz up his image in the mind of potential voters, should he "have to run."
I have never seen a man running harder for president who is not running for president.
And that is another part of his strategy.
Timing is everything.
While the conventional wisdom is jump in early and ride out the storm, he is, somewhat like the other non-candidate, Fred Thompson, busy creating an image of himself and a perception of the other candidates, poor, well-meaning saps, and just biding his time.
He is watching the atmospheric conditions brew and waiting for the perfect storm.
His early-on interview with James Dobson in which he knew the blunt Dobson would confront him with his extra-marital affair was another master preemptive strike.
He was able to come off as contrite, fully aware of the pain he'd caused and even courageous for baring his soul to evangelicals.
A lesson learned, and we are expected to forget that he carried on an affair with a young intern while his wife was in the hospital for cancer treatment.
God will most certainly forgive, but, personally, I would like to see a little more shame-facedness from the man, whom I view as nothing but a political hack; a very smart political hack, somewhere in the moral vicinity as Dick Morris.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I think that the reason that this was excluded from the Bible is the same reason we are not told when Christ will rapture his church.
The temptation to measure our troubles against time would be irresistible. If only we can hold out as long as Job . . .
I imagine Job would be eager to point something out, My friend, do you imagine that time healed the wounds of the loss of my children?
And again, Did you think that God simply made it all better by restoring my wealth and giving me more children?
The exact purpose behind Job's ordeal I think he is still in the process of discovering, but I imagine the first thing he learned was that his protestations of innocence in the face of accusations had the same quality of frustrated ignorance that grips a child when the needle inoculates him against small pox.
I think that what dawned on Job as he listened to God speak from the whirlwind was a fleeting but profound glimpse of God's transcendence.
Nowhere in God's response to Job will you find an apology or an explanation for what Job had suffered.
In essence, God was saying, "Child, you don't need a reason, you just need to remember who I am."
Another reason I search for a calendar in the life of Job is not so much questioning how much pain and suffering Job endured, but wondering how long Job spoke to God before God answered?
I believe that this was the greatest pain Job endured. The brassy heavens.
Job didn't long for recompense as much as he longed for reassurance that his tormentor was God and not fate.
I reflect on the terror that filled Job's soul as the Voice overwhelmed from the whirlwind. I think it must have felt something like letting go of the cliff's edge.
I think it must have felt something like surrender, and I think it must have felt like being swept downstream in a raging torrent into the arms of God.
I think it must have felt like being sanctified; the terror you feel of laying your will down on an altar to be brutally sacrificed only to awaken to a sweet realization as the thing lies in death throes that you have been rid of a killing cancer.
I wish to know how long the patron saint of suffering suffered before the breathtaking rebuke of God carried away all his care and all his questions.
Empathy for Job comes not as first-hand knowledge of such grief and pain, but identification with the wait.
Oswald Chambers writes, "There are times when there is no illumination and no thrill, but just the daily round, the common task. Routine is God's way of saving us between our times of inspiration."
Hear, hear . . . . . .
. . . . . how long in between inspirations?
I remember the tempestuous relationship with emotion, good and bad, that I rode out during the first year after my conversion. I remember the storms, and I remember Jesus walking on the water in the dead of night. I remember so much breathless fear, and such sweet reassurance.
The caveat of maturity, however agonizingly slow, is the loss of a childish innocence.
Read the word carefully, childish, not childlike.
The innocence I speak of is naivete, not faith. But naivete and helplessness has its benefits. God pampers babies.
When you come to recognize Satan's exploitation of an over-active conscience, you don't require the calm reassurance, Yes, you're doing fine.
The waves don't get so big, but I haven't seen Jesus walking on the water in the night for a long time.
More later . . .
Note: Reflection is good for the soul. Whether or not it comes with a cute, tidy little conclusion. . . .well. . . .Job?
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Saturday, June 30, 2007
How many times have you heard someone call a talk show, and start their point with, "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but . . ." and then proceed to proffer evidence of a perceived conspiracy.
Prompting me to ask Devan, "Do you suppose anyone has ever called into to a talk show and said, 'I'm a conspiracy theorist, and . . .etc., etc.' "
Everyone loves the idea of a conspiracy, but no one wants to be seen as paranoid.
Generally, conspiracies are fantastic and unfounded, but there is one conspiracy I firmly believe in.
It has tentacles everywhere, and in the most unlikely places, but traced back, my suspicions are confirmed. It has one origin.
The history of this conspiracy and the staggering spread of evidence is such that I don't know where to start.
I'll start with a book I read about a man named George Lincoln Rockwell.
The man's parents possibly had high hopes for the child they dubbed with the Christian name and surname of two U.S. presidents. Indeed, he did advance to the national scene, and it was in politics and ideology, as the founder of the American Nazi Party.
Rockwell became convinced, over the course of his life, of the superiority of the white race. He broadened the appeal of white supremacy beyond Hitler's Aryan supermen. Pitching the big tent, he welcomed in whites of European descent, and all other non-Aryan whites. He claims to have had a religious experience while burning candles on an altar in front of Adolf Hitler's picture. He swore allegiance to his dead hero.
White supremacy most famously denigrates blacks, and Rockwell was no exception. He and his people released musical records with inflammatory lyrics regarding blacks. He was vitriolic in his hatred for the black race, and considered them vastly inferior.
So, reading on, I was stunned to read of the joint rallies of Rockwell's Nazis and Elijah Mohammed's Black Panthers.
The common ground on which these two proponents of racial superiority stood is an ancient, blood-soaked piece of land.
Hatred was the motivation for both of these activists, and their hatred of each other's race was strong, but they shared a hatred that was stronger yet, a hatred forged in hellfire long ago, the hatred of the Jews.
Anti-semitism has a long, layered history. Beginning with Haman's final solution, the inexplicable hatred this race triggers extends down through history to the present.
Undoubtedly, Jewish people face the greatest threat from the Muslim population, and yet, there are so many unseen threads that travel back to America and tie themselves to many people and ideologies who are in direct opposition to all things Muslim, except anti-Semitism.
Wikipedia tells me of a new form of anti-semitism, simply called new anti-semitism, that is new because of its convergence of the left, the far right, and Islam.
Immediately, the unexplored connection of Al-Queda to Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, comes to mind. The connection remains largely ignored, I believe, because of the desire of the U.S. media to isolate McVeigh as simply an unhinged, former military, far right-wing, home-grown terrorist. The picture becomes disturbing and far too conspiratorial when far-right ideology becomes linked with radical Islam by anti-Semitism, which has also found a new home in the terrorist-appeasing Democratic Party.
The unlikely alliance becomes more troubling when you consider the underlying theories behind the hatred of all things Jewish. The far right is convinced that Jews control everything. The media, the banks. . .what else is there? They feel it is their duty to expose the Jewish conspiracy.
I mentioned Mohammed's Black Panthers. The Black Muslim ideology continues to share with the far right the belief that Jews are in control. Hearken unto Minster Louis Farrakhan and his rhetoric, "Jewish blood-suckers." Take notice of the word "blood-suckers." It is an outgrowth of the view of Jews as a parasitic people, preying upon their host nation. It is an old distortion, one not even laid to rest with the birth of Israel in 1948, with two billion Muslims claiming the land as their own, and descending on the minuscule, new-born nation with a vast Arab alliance to rid the previously un-used, un-wanted wasteland of their most hated enemy.
Even confined within the restrictive borders of their own homeland, they are still viewed as a parasite preying upon the host.
The Jewish conspiracy is the mother of all conspiracies.
The extreme ends of many ideologies are tied together with this idea, reminding us that ideology is a circle and when a fascist comes to the end of his radicalism, he will find himself a Communist, and vice versa.
Rockwell believed blacks were inferior and must be subjugated. Mohammed believed blacks were superior and must overcome the white "blue-eyed devils." But both saw Jewish control as the puppet master forcing their people to strive with each other.
You can feel the crawling hatred, so insidious it makes the blood slow in your veins, in the innocuous suggestion of the anti-war protester. "The Muslims hate us because we support Israel." Often left unspoken is the irritation with Israel for having brought the vengeful Muslims down on our head.
Less subtle are the allegations that Israel possessed fore-knowledge of 9-11, and even that the Mossad brought down the twin towers, to unleash the U.S. on Israel's enemies.
The proof of the anti-semitic conspiracy lies in the multiplied and diverse outbursts of anti-semitism.
The Egyptians are credited with planting the seed. The Egyptian historian Manetho wrote that the Israelites were simply expelled Egyptian lepers under the influence of Moses.
The Greeks massacred Jews in Alexandria in 38 A.D. for being "misanthropes."
The Romans had their own Jewish problem. Not content with simply having conquered the Jews, in 19 A.D., Tiberius expelled all Jews from Rome, relocating them to Sardinia. The penalty for non-compliance was slavery for life. In the second century as well, the Romans committed genocide against the Jews during bar Kokhba's revolt. Additionally, the Jews were attacked in Roman cities for issues involving Jewish fiancial and intellectual successes.
The first time the death of Christ became an excuse for hating Jews, (a favorite of the KKK), was in 167 A.D. in a sermon given by Melito of Sardis entitled On The Passover.
The moniker of Christ-killer was also snarled at Jews by officers of the SS.
The Roman Catholic Church, as well, affixed the blame for the death of Christ to the Jewish race, influencing even the renegade Martin Luther to pen some disturbing anti-semitic suggestions.
The Muslim persecution of Jews began in the ninth century, with Muslim rulers enforcing blood libels, forced conversions, massacres and expulsion of Jews.
Expulsion and forced one-child policies were also enforced against Jewish people in Prussia and Bohemia.
During the American Civil War, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued an order (hastily rescinded by President Lincoln) expelling all Jews from areas under his control. Grant later issued an order "that no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the road southward."
Grant's aide, Col. John V. DuBois ordered "all cotton speculators, Jews, and vagabonds with no honest means of support" expelled from the district, and furthermore, "The Israelites especially should be kept out. . .they are such an intolerable nuisance."
The KKK, initially formed in 1866, with as much an emphasis on resisting Reconstruction as on racial superiority, was a short lived organization, with Southern elites viewing the uncontrollable nature of the Klan as just another excuse for the Federals to come down on all Southerners. In 1915, however, it was reformed in response to a wide-spreading brush fire of anti-Semitism sparked by the lynching of a Jewish businessman accused, by virtue of some sloppy circumstantial evidence, of rape and murder.
The Klan's membership peaked during the 1920's, with a whopping 4 to 5 million men.
It dropped radically following WWII, resulting partly from prominent members' support of the Nazis.
It is virtually non-existent as an organized movement today, but the strong anti-Semitic mantle has been taken up by the growing Neo-Nazi movement. The Neo-Nazis are not tremendously organized, but galvanized, particularly in Germany, by their hatred of Jews.
As I mentioned earlier, the nation of Israel is blamed for many of America's woes. Democrats accuse President Bush for "flying under two flags." i.e., the flag of the United States and the flag of Israel.
Echoing Charles Lindbergh's sneaky Nazism, every U.S. intervention in the Middle East is blamed on Israel by everyone from Sen. Ernest Hollings to Pat Buchanan.
Additionally, the long-standing furor over the U.S. imprisonment of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was reason enough to accuse former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu of "extortion" for trying to attach the release of Pollard, labeled a "treasonous snake," to President Clinton's ill-fated Wye River Peace Accord.
More later. . .
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Today, my frustration with Hannity received its satisfaction of vindication. Such arrogance would reveal itself in sophomoric ridicule, I thought as I listened to Hannity mock a stuttering caller/detractor, the way a junior high bully would.
That was that. Hannity is a jerk. I felt better. Until I remembered Sean Hannity couldn't read my mind, couldn't hear my muttered undertones, and, more infuriating, wouldn't be at all crestfallen to find out that I think he is a jerk.
How different am I, pounding on the dash, than a Sopranos addict screaming at the television while the credits roll?
It is times like these that I feel perhaps we were better off before the information age and the new media.
Before talk radio and television, what medium could have possibly incited me to be so upset with a man I've never met? What's worse, I'm a willing participant in the advertising conquest that bankrolls said jerk.
It's a phase, don't worry. I'll get over it.
I'm become somewhat consistently jaded when it comes to having my emotions manipulated by movies.
It's only the completely innocuous scenes that put a lump in my throat. The scenes with the tears, the rain, the sunsets and the saccharine music I only analyze.
By George, nobody is gonna jerk me around.
Until I turn on the radio, under the dubious auspices of being informed.
The truth is, I listen to, well, let's see, I listen to remind myself why I am right in thinking in what I am thinking. I rehash, and reiterate, and regurgitate everything in a perpetual information or misinformation overload.
There is nothing wrong with knowing what is going on. Nor is there anything wrong with combining religion and politics, thank you, Jerry Falwell.
But in feeding my fury over immigration, I start to mirror those I disagree with.
I'm upset because I feel conservative punditry has elevated a chiefly economic issue to a moral imperative.
And I've lost focus.
Blogs notwithstanding, the immigration debate will be resolved, or not, with or without my consent or approval.
Lost souls, however, I can do something about.
Illegal immigration, Hillary Clinton's strident liberalism, Sean Hannity's hubris, border security, national security, Newt Gingrich's fresh new coat of morality, Mitt Romney's Mormonism, Rudy Gulianni's New Yorkness, all topics of concern, but all potential distractions.
No surprise, here. Spiritual concerns are featherweight, and they fly into the air when disturbed by a stiff wind.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I happen to like Hispanics.
That being said as a gesture of honesty, I think a lot of people dislike Hispanics.
And, I believe this prejudice is kicking up a lot of the dust we see swirling over this immigration fracas.
I'm well aware that accusing conservatives of prejudice in regards to immigration has been addressed and deemed race-baiting.
I observe, however.
I live in Kentucky. The two largest minorities are African-American and Hispanic.
Studying the behavior of my fellow white brothers and sisters in reaction to both minorities has revealed two things to me.
The Jim Crow days are over. Black people are accepted, assimilated, and integrated. From where I stand, we now look at blacks and see simply another human, perhaps one who can sing better, laugh harder, and cook better, but just another human nonetheless. I see blacks and whites working together in complete harmony. I believe MLK can rest in peace. His dream came true.
On the other hand, when I observe whites and Hispanics, I see sullenness, rolling eyes, irritation. Particularly, (sorry for any controversy this may arouse) among white women.
I see a lot of white people who seem to resent being in the same room as a Hispanic.
Why is this?
You can rattle off your list.
Refusal to assimilate, refusal to learn English, etc.
I am convinced, however, that the reason we have not learned to accept Hispanics as they are, broken English, cha-cha music and all, is because we have not yet been told to accept them.
How many movies have you seen which address the issue of racism in regard to Hispanics?
How many highly publicized hate crimes verdicts have been handed down for white-on-Hispanic, or black-on-Hispanic crime?
Has the Catholic church apologized for enslaving Hispanics, as the Southern Baptist Convention apologized for enslaving African- Americans?
Which month is Hispanic-American history month, and if there is one, how come I haven't heard about it?
How many Jesse Jacksons, or Al Sharptons do the Latinos have?
Just today, a Hispanic male driver clipped a little girl in an Austin neighborhood. She was later taken to the hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries. At the scene of the accident, however, nine black males descended on the driver of the car, and when another Hispanic male attempted to intervene, they beat him to death.
Let's see if the fuss made over this even begins to compare the explosion we heard over the shooting death of a black male at a strip club the night before his wedding.
I am not suggesting that illegal immigrants be given a pass because they're discriminated against, such as our jury system gave to O.J. Simpson, I am suggesting that the whole reason this discussion raises such rancor is, one, because, it's an economic issue, and two, because people don't like Mexicans. I simply don't believe the American public is capable of rendering a thoughtful judgement on anything.
Illegal immigration is seen as being a drain on the economy, and worse, an irritation and an inconvenience.
It's the economy stupid, and I ain't gonna sit there and try to talk to no Mexican who ain't got the courtesy to learn to speak no English.
Honestly, I'm sick of this.
I listened to the great Sean Hannity treat Tony Snow like Sean doesn't treat Bob Beckle or Melissa Etheridge or Howard Stern, for crying out loud.
He was argumentative, petulant and came off sounding like a cross between Pat Buchanaan and Alec Baldwin.
Hannity repeatedly accuses the president and his supporters of being out of touch with the American people. If I wasn't so exasperated, I'd be amused. Since when do conservatives seek for justification in popular opinion?
I wouldn't go so far as to say that if a majority of the American public support something, I'm automatically against it, but you better believe I'm going to look at it with narrow-eyed suspicion.
Again, I say it's like living in a town full of drunks. If there's a riot, there's been a shortage of booze.
If one-tenth the energy devoted to this issue by talk radio were devoted to, say, the abortion issue, South Dakota wouldn't be the only state to suggest banning it.
Illegal immigration is a problem and needs to be dealt with, but I, for one, am disgusted when I see this issue and the Duke lacrosse scandal as having become our identity.
The only way I would have been happy with the outcome of the Duke mess, by the way, is if they'd put Mike Nifong, the stripper, and the three young Duke thugs all in the same cell together for about six months.
Monday, June 18, 2007
How do you put your heart in your warning against abortion, homosexual activism, and radical Islam when you believe these things are signs of the times?
Put another way, how hypocritical do you feel when you affect grimness over a tumultuous Middle East and the apocalyptic rantings of Iran's president, against a rising bubble of excitement in your gut?
I often feel pitied admiration for the likes of James Dobson, cheering him on, muttering under my breath, "Man, you're beating your head against a brick wall."
I harbor no optimism for the salvation of my country, much less the world.
It's not simply a matter of eschatology. I know that James Dobson knows that the world will not continue to get better and better until it's good enough for God to live in. He's fighting the good fight, don't misunderstand me, but what end does he see?
It could be that I'm simply not compassionate enough to muster the energy to place behind the hope that drives a dedicated Christian activist.
It could be the cynicism of youth, (I'm a Generation X-er, after all. "Hope, where is hope? Don't be a dope, hope is gone.")
There is a passage in a novel that has influenced me, perhaps more than it should.
It is a burst of exasperation from a weary, burned out pastor responding to the blazing, fresh-faced optimism of a young pastor, determined to take the town for Christ.
"Have you even asked this town if it wants to be taken for Christ? . . .I guarantee you, Kyle, I know some people around here who do not wish to be taken for Christ. . .No one . . .has ever. . .taken a city for Christ. Not Paul, not Peter, nobody. Not even Christ took a town for Christ."
Taking a town for Christ, or fervent prayers for a revival to be poured out on this city are owing in part to a certain score-keeping mentality that is inseparable from humanity.
There is something of a war cry in the prayer, "God, take this town for Christ!"
I think most of us would be more suited for battling against principalities and powers if it were a physical matter.
I remember reading the Darkness books by Peretti at a fairly young age and then bolting outside with a broom handle to mow down demons like weeds.
They were, in fact, weeds, and they did fall before my broom handle like Destroyer's hordes fell under Tal's sword.
I'm not equating my immaturity with the zeal of evangelism, but I can't help but be reminded of it when I listen to the words of a worship song, "You know I feel there's somethin bout to break now. You know I feel there's a city here to take now. . .We've got this leather backed book and a freedom cry and we're an army of God who are ready to die."
Maybe I'm blind but I see a few scattered, exhausted soldiers just standing up under the weight of their armour and a whole bunch more who have shed everything but their sword and are running around hacking on trees for the glory of God.
"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society." -D. James Kennedy
Head in the clouds or head in the sand, what's the difference?
I recently looked at a website called Theocracy Watch.
They are the brave souls warning America about the drumbeat of doom. These people are literally terrified of the rise of the Christian right and their impending "theocracy."
I want to laugh so hard that I reach that stage when it's hard to tell laughing from crying.
Yeah, sure. Lock up the kids. Bar the windows. We're coming to get you.
We're gonna haul you in to a church and force communion down your throat, and make you recite the Ten Commandments, the Four Spiritual Laws, and Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses.
Beyond the absurdity of worrying about a Christian conspiracy is the sad fact that if we wished to conspire, we'd be hard put to gather ten of us around a bonfire to come up with a secret password.
I fully intend to reconcile my view with optimism.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
How much of it do we ingest every day and how much do we breathe out?
Relative, i.e. not absolute or independent.
I'm sure there would be a consensus among most of us, that-
Noam Chomsky is a zealot.
Not only that, he's zealous about absolutely nothing, and quite literally.
Nietzsche, was, in my mind, not the father of, (the claim to that title goes to the one who spoke the words, ". . .and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.") but the Bill Gates of functional moral relativism. He made it user-friendly and progressively, since his death, more necessary until now, we're confounded without it. He was also Adolf Hitler's false prophet.
It doesn't impress me that Nietzsche held anti-Semitism in low regard. He had no right to hold anything in low regard. He certainly couldn't have said that killing Jews for being Jews was wrong, now, could he?
But Nietzsche was the hairy, scary, real deal.
He emblazoned the pages of his books with courageous pronouncements. He minced no words, he made no concessions, and, to his credit, was quite possibly the least contradictory relativist I've ever read after.
But his stuff was a little too strong for us to stomach.
Especially after the development of his ideas arguably contributed to the Holocaust. So, we watered it down a little.
Not unlike evangelical Christianity does with predestination.
Poor John Calvin must have been in a theological slump when he walked up to the plate with that predestination idea.
But the doctrine of eternal security, he knocked that one out of the park!
Which is not unlike saying he used a matchstick to hit one out.
Just a curious aside, if the doctrine of eternal security was based on predestination and it was, how come everyone goes around assuming they are one of the ones God chose to go to Heaven and not hell?
So, are you a relativist?
Before you lower your eyebrows, when was the last time, when discussing a difference in a certain point of doctrine, or standard of living, you said, "Well, I have confidence in that person, I just don't agree with them on this or that."?
Without getting into specifics, (I haven't the nerve) what exactly is it that makes you so sure that the person is dead wrong, and all right at the same time?
Just how far back up through the ranks and levels of rules and regulations can we take this "personal conviction" stuff?
All the way to the very first ten?
Where do you put the kibosh on not judging?
When they start getting on your nerves?
The deeper I sink into this quagmire, the more I realize that "judge not that ye be not judged" is a command only understood and followed properly by the most devout, an order I long to join.
Did it mean, "Decide not for yourself whether this person is right or wrong?"
Upon quick perusal, I say, "No, it doesn't, it just means, keep your decision to yourself."
Quick perusal is generally a bad idea.
Looking closer, I see a command, a directive given to the heart, an attitude the Lord instructed us to cultivate.
It means, desperately wish and hope for and believe the best about your brother's spirituality, and when you are proved wrong, don't "aha!" Rather mourn and intercede for that soul as if it were your own.
Furthermore, "their Christianity is their business," is pure flippancy when viewed through this Christ lens.
We are to become heavily invested in our brother's success as a follower of Jesus.
Don't just not care.
Don't just make it a matter not for your concern.
Until now, there is a story about the Wesley brothers I have always regarded with some degree of cynicism.
It is said that John stated that Charles reserved judgement, and wished to be convinced of someones spirituality, but that he, John, took them at their word. I, John said, have been more often right than Charles.
I'm as cynical as the next cynic, but now, I wonder, without deciding for sure, can the confidence you place in someone become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Saturday, June 09, 2007
I know plenty of hard-core, blue-collar, pro-union, yellow-dog Democrats who are just as vehement around their wad of tobacco about the flood of illegals as is the bespectacled Newt Gingrich.
The only distinction lies in the presentation of the case. The case of the blue-collar Democrat may be summed up in an anecdotal comparison; Renowned for his reserve, Calvin Coolidge reportedly attended church one Sunday without his wife. Upon returning to the White House, his wife asked after the service and the topic of the sermon. "Adultery" was the extent of Coolidge's report. "Well. . ." the First Lady insisted, "What did the minister have to say on the subject?"
"He's against it." Coolidge replied.
Gingrich's presentation for the case against II, if we can abbreviate, is intellectual and eloquent.
I.E., the good of the country, which, after unauthorized translation means, the good of me.
In the Dem's case, more money, and less difficulty conversing with mono-lingual Hispanics.
In Newt's case, a prospective presidential campaign.
I realize there are other, better examples of high-profile II opponents, and their motivation may be less suspect than that of either the union Democrat or the politician.
However, the trumpeting of an impending conservative victory in regard to the languishing immigration bill disgusts me.
Opposition to II is no more begotten of conservative ideology than opposition to human rights abuse is the spawn of liberalism.
Unless, of course, you agree to call a spade a spade and acknowledge that your conservatism in this matter is pure fiscal conservatism.
Again, keep in mind, I discuss the issue of Hispanic influx (which is the wind that drives the storm) and not the issue, linked though it is, of national security.
My frustration lies in the company that I, as a conservative ideologue by virtue of my Christianity, must keep.
The instability of the Peggy Noonan-dubbed conservative coalition was made evident to me when Sean Hannity invited Howard Stern as a guest on his show, following the FCC censure of Stern.
The realization dawned not as a result of Hannity hosting Stern. After all, he features (and opposes) many others I differ with.
It was not even the result of Hannity's essentially gutless, completely ineffective handling of Stern's barely restrained stream of filth.
It was the many calls afterwards from loyal Hannity listeners who also laid claim to being loyal Stern listeners.
Are these the people with whom I share the foxhole?
Disciples of Howard Stern?
Everything I stand for as a social conservative, every reason I call myself a conservative is diametrically opposed to everything that motivates Howard Stern.
If there is evil, there must be good, if there is a Satan, there must be a God, and if there is a Howard Stern, it must mean there was an original concept of purity in which he found his identity by spending his life mocking.
To call yourself a conservative, but gleefully indulge the sickness of a Stern, an Imus, an Opie and Anthony, a Bob and Tom under the guise of First Amendment rights is to expose yourself as nothing but a libertarian, which is another word for the most self-centered creature on God's green earth.
Probably more later.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Before we do anything, stop the flow.
Easier said than done, but the point is taken.
Illegal immigration is a monumental multi-faceted problem, but turning the water off before you start to mop up the puddle is common sense.
Beefing up border patrol, included in the now dying bill, is perhaps more of the same, but again, I trust border agents to turn back the tide more than I trust a fence.
A comprehensive electronic database allowing the government to closely monitor employers is an even better idea included in the dying bill.
Much of the focus has been on the illegals instead of the avenues taken by them.
They aren't swimming the river individually.
Preemptive intelligence focused on smuggling networks would seem to be only more common sense.
The proposed path to citizenship has suffered another accusation by yet another conservative pundit, Mike McConnell. To make a way, straight and narrow though it may be, to citizenship for those who chose to enter the country illegally is not fair to those who wish to enter the country but have chosen not to come in under the radar.
I find that an odd argument, especially coming from the no-nonsense McConnell.
This is not about them, this is about us, correct?
The primary objective is how to fix the problem for America, not all the foreigners who want in.
And if we are to begin trying to be all things to all people, let us either apologize to the Hutus slaughtered in Rwanda or forsake Darfur altogether.
America is a steward trusted with great responsibility, but our own interests come into play.
Altruism applied in our personal lives is commanded, but applied geo-politically unfortunately doesn't preserve a nation very well.
The security issues raised by Mark trump the economic issues.
If we have nukes going off in our cities, priorities will hurriedly realign.
And by the way, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will be popping champagne corks if this bill is killed.
Unlike Bush, they do everything for political expediency, and don't think they aren't going to play up this Republican division for every dime it's worth
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Last estimates were somewhere in upwards of single digits.
Sometime in the next quarter some analysts predict breaking into double digits.
But I really would like some feedback on this one.
I'm in a political funk.
I'm disgusted with liberals, predictably.
I'm disgusted with conservatives.
And I'm uncomfortable siding with John McCain against John Cornyn.
There's an issue that has come down out of nowhere, like a handichopper on an unsuspecting potato.
Illegal immigration has been a problem for decades.
It has been one of those things we live with and joke about, like Congress.
I suppose it had gotten to the point where I assumed it was one of those things that would never be addressed, and if it were, it would be in some droning congressional session in the middle of August, with the pages and the C-Span camera men knocking back cappuccinos and punching each other to stay awake.
What becomes a hot push-button issue for a public whose list of concerns is topped by American Idol and NASCAR, and becomes outraged only when their direct deposit paycheck doesn't clear the bank until noon on Friday?
Who'da thunk it?
This is the first thing that bothers me.
As disenfranchised as I am with my countrymen, I'm bound to cast a jaundiced eye on any issue that roils such widespread concern. Such as it would be for one sober to live in a community of drunks. If there's a riot, chances are there's been a shortage or prohibition. Society in general is too stupefied to be upset over anything legitimate.
So what am I left with?
Across the board, there is one issue that unites us all in one common purpose: money.
If there's an uprising, as they say, follow the money.
Illegals are seen as being a drain on the old pocketbook.
So we've decided to build a what?
The first time I heard somebody raise the idea of a fence, I thought it was good.
As a joke, not an idea.
Fences work good for cattle and chickens.
People, however, bent on the American dream, will tend to be repelled by it only if it is forty feet high with high voltage running on top and underneath and manned by guards every 100 yards armed with assault rifles.
Such as the Berlin Wall.
And if you wish to run away screaming with hysterical conjecture at the comparison, don't let me stop you.
Let me say that I think the border should be beefed up, and the government should come down hard on employers who hire illegals.
I do believe illegal immigration is a problem.
I just find the idea of a fence ridiculous.
So we have a bill in the Senate with the express purpose of fixing the problem of illegal immigration.
Early on, President Bush advocated a guest-worker program; the best idea yet.
Conservative pundits howled amnesty, and it went the way of the president's approval numbers.
So now, we have another Bush-backed idea.
We have a proposed path to citizenship for an estimated 12 million illegals.
If you want legal status, which is an excellent deterrent to deportation, you own up.
You pay a 6,500 dollar fine, prove yourself proficient in English, pass a criminal background check, pay all back taxes, prove full-time employment, and go back to the Mother land to await a visa, for a minimum of thirteen years.
And conservative pundits howled amnesty again.
I'm seeing two Latinos, Miguel and Gorge, looking at each other with raised eyebrows and low whistles, "With friends like this, amigo, who needs amnesty?"
I hesitate to begin a list of the president's detractors on this because I should get to bed sometime tonight, but . . .
Sean Hannity takes the concept of beating a dead horse to new proportions, (Think of whacking a dried up jaw bone down the road with a stick) and then references all the flak he's taking over all the flak he's giving the president.
Laura Ingraham whines that all this time conservatives have begged the president to take the gloves off, and now he's taken them off and punched conservatives in the nose.
Peggy Noonan accuses the President of sundering the conservative coalition, serving notice on me that there was such a thing.
Michael Savage ravages the bill because the name Bush is attached to it and because if Michael Savage wasn't savage, he'd just be another nutritional expert with a political talk show.
Rush Limbaugh has opposed the president on this, but has studiously avoided joining the Bush bash.
President Bush doesn't do things for political expediency.
I do have a charming gift for understatement, don't I?
Saturday, May 12, 2007
He was furious with himself. He couldn't have foreseen this storm. The weather forecasters sure didn't. They predicted a light dusting. But this kind of weather was the one thing he didn't, and should have, taken into account. It didn't do this in El Paso. It didn't even do this in Las Cruces. Even as close as Alamogordo, the snow had only iced the desert, frosting the mesquite and ocotillo and stretching over the sandy ground with a meager two inches. The farther up the mountain he came, the more nervous he got. The snow flew thicker and heavier. The roads went from wet to slushy to snow-packed, and since he'd left the highway, he'd not seen one set of tracks. That was another thing that bothered him. Leaving the deep fresh tracks behind him, he felt as if he were throwing out meat for some predator to follow. It was bad enough coming up here in the daytime. He hadn't been on this road in the daylight in months. It was more than a little confusing. He was used to following the dim outline of the pale gravel road in the moonlight, no headlights. In broad daylight, with all this blasted snow, he wasn't completely confident of his bearings. He wasn't sure how he'd made it this far, but he knew if he stopped, it was over. He could maneuver the rust-ravaged beater over the worst kind of desert terrain, but this snow. . .
His hands were starting to meld to the wheel, and his eyes ached, planting a headache solidly on top of his tensed neck and clenched teeth. He'd even turned the radio off, something he could never remember doing. If he could've stopped long enough to admit it to himself, he was scared spitless. But Moses wasn't the type to admit anything to anyone, least of all himself.
He couldn't afford to. One admission would knock over the first domino, and he'd been setting them up, one right after the other, for years. They curved and twisted and even looped back on themselves for all he knew. If one fell, they'd collapse so far back he could see his childhood, something he didn't care to see. Keep moving, don't stay in one spot too long. That was the reason he was mad. He knew as soon as he'd put those grave markers up, they should've split. For that matter, he shouldn't have even put the stupid things there. He just did it for Carson.
He couldn't have cared less where those two worthless people were rotting, but Carson missed his mother, and begged for a place where he could go and talk to her.
He shouldn't have buried them around here, shouldn't have put the markers up, shouldn't have left Carson up here so long, shouldn't have waited until this mother of all blizzards to come up here and get Carson, and shouldn't have taken that last turn, he had a bad feeling.
But he was afraid to slow down, much less stop, in more ways than one.
He had convinced himself, a long forgotten time ago, that he knew what he was doing. He was an impressive sight, with all that devil-may-care confidence. He cut an impressive figure anyway. He was tall for a Hispanic, something he could thank his German mother's side of the family for, if nothing else. His eyes were a clear blue, and his lashes were thick. His hair had the lustrous black sheen of his father's, but with more curl. His skin was the smooth, flawless color of dusk. And a dedicated work-out schedule had added smooth pads of muscle to his chest and back, filling him out like a hard-edged soccer player. His demeanor was quick and sure. The slight swagger, to anyone who cared to look hard enough, had just enough of a self-conscious check to it to reveal a bottomless insecurity. But it was pretty near perfect, and it didn't matter, anyway. Whatever was unnatural he'd done for so long it blended in. Even his voice, with the ragged edge to it, had an affected quality to it. His English, especially, had a flowing, almost musical cadence. He used profanity like rhythm, punctuating his carefully chosen phrases with a syncopated beat. He sprinkled a little Spanish cursing in his English as well, and gave it a nice overall American Salsa flavor.
He'd created himself. And he'd done it so well, that no one, least of all him, would ever know who he was to start with. It was somewhere back on that first domino.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Where I erred was in judging this to be a modern, or post-modern curiosity. The Isrealites persisted in combining all forms of idol worship with Judaism.
Much earlier, Cain insisted on sacrificing vegetables to God, and was only his mother's son. From Eve's initial protest and then acceptance of the serpent's dubious theology, I seem to gather that she chose to believe that the eating of the forbidden fruit dovetailed quite nicely with the rest of her theology. Outright rebellion it was not. Heresy rarely is.
I rehash to bring up another subject that I again considered a novelty; the practice of self-inflicted penance in the stead of God's convicting changing power. Upon reflection I am stunned by the prevalence of the prostitution of guilt.
Guilt has overtaken NASCAR as the national pastime. We are guilt-ridden, and, at the same time, extremely careless. And it is our guilt that enables us to be so care-free. It's easy. You compartmentalize. Guilt needn't interfere with our pursuit of happiness.
I grew curious over lyrics from a certain Christian group, recently, and availed myself of their website to see what made them tick. It wasn't jeweled movement.
I read of their reticence to be classed with "cheesy, holier-than-thou evangelicals." Their prioritizing of social concerns was in curious order for a group of professed Christians. They long to record anti-war songs, but feel their audience may not be ready for it. Asked about a rumor that they were stumping for Hillary Clinton for president, they placidly denied it, "at this time", although, they then went on to note that they did like her husband, but were currently "intrigued" by Barack Obama. They acknowledged abortion as a societal tragedy, but seemed more concerned with pushing the issue on environmental issues. They conjured up taboos set in place by the Christian establishment, and then bemoaned the imaginary restraints placed on them.
As I read on, I became disgusted with what seemed to be one of the most whining, pretentious, self-righteous, judgemental rants I'd ever heard from one group who calls themselves Christian on another group who calls itself Christian. (Oddly enough, there's really not that many self-righteous evangelicals around. They're all too busy sputtering, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."; a worthy mantra, if applied correctly.)
This same group, who funds a large charity dedicated to the care of AIDS sufferers in Africa, expends most of their precious musical and lyrical talent on critical introspection.
Thoughtful, I would have called it. Spiritual navel-gazing now seems to be a more applicable term.
Evangelicals misuse guilt as well. By and large, the late twentieth century mutant strain of Calvinism now pervades every major evangelical denomination. Guilt is common here, also. An old friend, in fact. The worse you can feel about crucifying Jesus afresh every day in thought, word and deed, the more spiritual you are. It is a glorified form of self-deprecation. How awful it is that we cannot keep from pounding new nails in His hands every day! The studied conscientiousness of how our continual sin extracts continual sacrifice from Christ burdens many a radio preacher, oh, if only we could quit!
I myself am not above abusing guilt.
If I offend anyone, this troubles me deeply. I apologize, profusely, unsatisfied until the offended party forgives. A self-serving attitude manifests itself in my desperation for an apology. I don't wish to trouble myself any longer over the wrong I've done another. I question whether I ever troubled myself over the harm I caused another or whether I was sorry simply because I found myself inconvenienced by having to suffer through repentance. Acceptance of the apology and forgiveness is, consequently, nothing more than a placebo. All this was a subconscious process until recently, and frankly, I'm irritated that it ever reared its ugly head above water.
Furthermore, in referencing the relative ease with which I live out my Christianity, I wished to know whether we have truly taken on His yoke, or if we have, have we lightened the load?
I enjoy my Christianity. I've grown used to the sacrifice.
In case the glaring contradiction lurking in the last statement didn't jump out and bite you on the nose, I'll point it out.
If one grows used to sacrifice, it ceases to be sacrifice.
If your servitude becomes a comfortable fit, it needs alteration. It should chafe a little.
Does one go hunting for trouble? Perhaps not, but if you are advancing as you should be, you are behind enemy lines and trouble will find you.
Every Easter season we are treated to the spectacle of crucifixion in the Philippines.
By submitting to fifteen or twenty minutes of the most excruciating physical pain imaginable, you make a one-time, life-time sacrifice of our will.
If only it were that easy.
We are required to sacrifice our will daily.
Entire sanctification is appropriately categorized as surrender. Whereupon, however, we are not deposited in a stockade and instructed not to attempt escape.
Instead, we are taken to the arsenal, armed, and sent back out to do battle with our old comrade-in-arms, Self.